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Shemini Summaries

Shemini 5777-2017

“The Unending Mourning”

From the deaths of Nadav and Abihu we learn that mourning for certain losses are truly never-ending.

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Shemini 5776-2016

“Good Intentions Gone Awry”

The sons of Aaron, Nadav and Abihu, apparently had noble intentions, but they allowed their zeal to lead them astray, resulting in their tragic punishment.

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Shemini-Yom HaShoah 5775-2015

“Yom HaShoah: Six Million–Minus One”

More than twenty years ago, Avi London wrote about being miraculously reunited with his long-lost sister who had been separated from her family for 50 years when she was a child in Nazi-occupied Poland.

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Shemini 5774-2014

“This is What the L-rd Meant When He Said”

What did Moses mean when he began his words of condolence to his bereaved brother, Aaron, with the enigmatic phrase, “Of this did the L-rd speak, saying.”

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Shemini 5773-2013

“Authentic Religious Ecstasy”

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik suggests that Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Abihu, were judged more harshly because they were in positions of leadership and punished more severely because they attempted to experience religious ecstasy through prohibited means.

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Shemini 5772-2012

“The Efficacy of the Oral Code”

In parashat Shemini we encounter one of many verses in the Torah that seems to indicate that Torah clearly does not make sense without an Oral Code. Although every verse of the Biblical text has a definite literal meaning, virtually every verse has its own particular interpretation in the Oral Code to facilitate our understanding of the Biblical text.

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Shemini 5771-2011

“The Death of Aaron’s Sons: The Midrashic Perspective”

The Midrash labors, at great length, to develop a context for the great tragedy that befell Aaron’s family on the “eighth day.”

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Shemini 5770-2010

“The Show Must Go On”

Moses and Aaron disagree over whether the Rosh Chodesh sin offering should have been brought on the heels of the great tragedy that befell Aaron with the loss of his two sons. The debate has to do with whether the “show” must always go on, and under what circumstances should it go on. What are the key differences between the positions of Moses and Aaron on this issue?

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Shemini-Yom Hashoah 5769-2009

“Aaron’s Response to Tragedy-a Lesson for Yom Hashoah”

On what should have been the most jubilant day of his life, Aaron suffers the tragic loss of two of his sons who bring a strange fire shortly after the Tabernacle is inaugurated. Despite these grievous losses, Aaron and his two remaining sons are determined to go on with the ceremony. It is the commitment to preserve Jewish life, and live as a Jew with great zeal and passion, as taught to us by the High Priest Aaron, that is, unquestionably, the most powerful and appropriate response to the Shoah.

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Shemini 5768-2008

“The Eighth Day”

Our Torah portion, Shemini, opens on the eighth day of the consecration ceremony. In contrast to the number seven that represents nature and the natural way in which the world is conducted, the number eight is supernatural. It is a great gift to humankind from G-d. The “eighth day” that the Al-mighty gives His people, must be utilized as an opportunity to begin afresh, to redeem ourselves from the errors of the past.

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Shemini-Yom Hashoah 5767-2007

“Never Again!-Again!”

As Yom Hashoah is marked, we think about the slogan “Never Again” and our pledge to never allow the wholesale destruction of the Jewish People to take place again. Unfortunately, it is happening again–this time through a silent spiritual Holocaust.

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Shemini 5766-2006

“Those Remarkable Dietary Laws”

Kashruth in the 21st century is far more than a religious ritual. It is a profound bond that unites Jew to Jew, a most meaningful tether that secures an individual to a nation, the sacred energy that connects a people and a nation to its very essence.

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Shemini 5765-2005

“The Little Steps that Lead to Big Accomplishments”

In parashat Shemini we learn that Moses and Aaron come in to the Tent of Meeting. From the Torah’s emphasis on these steps they took in coming, we learn the vital importance of the little, often-dismissed, actions. These actions should not be treated lightly. Indeed, they are to be regarded and valued as an integral and primary part of the ultimate goal.

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Shemini 5764-2004

“With the Lord as Our Partner”

On the final day of the ceremony marking the consecration of Aaron and his sons, Aaron blesses the people. His blessing expresses the hope that our human efforts, combined with Divine intervention, will be successful, and that we will unite with G-d in a partnership under the banner of a common purpose.

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Shemini 5763-2003

“Using, Not Abusing, the Sanctified Substance”

The severe punishment meted out to the sons of Aaron leaves us with a powerful reason to carefully study the Jewish attitude towards intoxicants and drugs. Alcoholism and drug abuse is serious business, not something that can be ignored. Wine is a divine gift, and plays a key role in Judaism. Yet, we need to make certain that it is treated as a special gift and imbibed with respect.

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Shemini 5761 – 2001

“The Responsibilities of Leadership”

Some commentators suggest that the “strange fire” offered by Nadav and Avihu was an attempt to fulfill an urge they had for their own self-expression. The tragic story of Nadav and Avihu teaches that true leaders must act responsibly, which inevitably results in limitations. Those who do not want limitations should avoid assuming leadership roles.

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Shemini 5760 – 2000

“Substance Abuse in Judaism”

The severe punishment meted out to the sons of Aaron leaves us with a powerful reason to carefully study the Jewish attitude towards intoxicants and drugs. Alcoholism and drug abuse is serious business, not something that can be ignored. Wine is a divine gift, and plays a key role in Judaism. Yet, we need to make certain that it is treated as a special gift and imbibed with respect.

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